The Five Stages of Revit Users

January 27th, 2012

Training is not as easy as creating one script and following it step by step.  Just as a baby grows into a toddler and then a child so do the skills of each individual when learning new software.  Structured training can assist in obtaining skills in the beginning, but what happens after that?  Getting through the teenage years and becoming an adult takes a different mindset and real-life experience over time.  The hand holding in the beginning stages needs to turn into directed exploration for maturity to take hold.

One of the things that occur in many firms is that, after training, everyone is expected to be an expert at utilizing Autodesk® Revit®.  It takes a few projects for most people to get comfortable with the program and the new workflow.  Even then, you can't expect everyone in your firm to become a Revit Leader or even a strong producer.  For a fully implemented firm though, everyone should at least be able to explore a Revit file to review the information and print or export as needed.  I believe there are five basic stages for users: Examine, Contribute, Produce, Explore, and Leader.

Stage 1 - Examine

A basic understanding of Revit, which allows one to explore the design, drawings, add annotation, and print and export needed information.

The examine stage is the baseline for every individual in a firm. This includes principals to project managers to anyone who needs to access data, drawings, or images from Revit.  This stage is the first step for anyone learning Revit.  Typically, I have found that a half-day session can cover most of the tools required.  This stage is unique in that some individuals do not need to move on from Stage 1 because they are typically not producers of the final documents.  At the same time, though, if they are not moving on to additional stages then they typically will have little reinforcement of the skills learned without utilizing their training in a project setting.  Therefore, strategies should be created to address either retraining in the future, videos, written documentation, or the ability to rely on more experienced team members to assist in their learning objectives.  For everyone else, this first training provides an understanding of the user Interface, where the tools are, how to navigate a project, and provides the groundwork to move into additional training.

Stage 2 - Contribute

This is the beginner stage of working within model.  Individuals will learn the skills to add basic system elements and modify existing components, modify schedules, and create 2D details.

The contribute stage is for project managers who want a more active role in the BIM process or for that last-minute team member added to a project with a looming deadline.  With an additional two half-day sessions, an individual can be trained to understand the basic modification controls, data entry, modifying schedules, and the ability to create 2D details.  This training allows one to contribute to the project without significant training or experience.  In the 2D CAD world this would be similar to someone being able to pick up redlines on a drawing set without the need for a deep understanding of the project.

Stage 3 - Produce

This is the production level of a team that will create a majority of the drawings for the project. Skills obtained above and beyond the building elements would be creating simple parametric families, utilizing shared parameters, creating schedules, and creating complex geometry.

The produce stage is what a majority of the project team will need to achieve to efficiently model and document the project.  This stage will require a few more half-day training sessions as needed to teach family creation, schedules, filters, view templates, and other tools as required.  When training on the other tools, it should be determined if the entire team should be trained on it or perhaps just one or two selected individuals.  Tools similar to the stairs or advanced curtain wall may not benefit the entire team if only one individual is going to work on them throughout the project.  If one determines that the entire team should be trained in something that they will not utilize, it should be understood that they will probably need re-training again later.  While this selective method provides specialties with individuals, if staffing on a project is done effectively, on the next project they can expand to other tools, thereby creating a more well-rounded and experienced individual.

Stage 4 - Explore

Ability to produce drawings and has passion to explore other ways utilizing Building Information Modeling (BIM) including, but not limited to, rendering, clash detection, sustainable analysis, light analysis, environmental analysis, costing, specifications, database linking, and many other opportunities.  This individual can help a team or office get beyond Revit alone and start experiencing BIM.

The explore stage is where the motivations and desires of each individual to expand their abilities or passion take hold.  These individuals have mastered the produce stage and now want to do more with the model they created.  At this point, the trainer can help direct such individuals in their quest to expand their skills through documentation, resources, instruction or discussions.  These individuals should be praised publicly within the firm as they will help a business become more innovative in their deliverables but they can be also utilized to expand the training within the firm.  Through in-house presentations, these individuals can share what they have found and what they are doing.  Since these individuals are in the trenches their opinion holds more weight with other peers than the opinions of a trainer or specialist within a firm.  Support these individuals and they can help change the culture of the firm.

Stage 5 - Leader

Manage utilization of BIM on a project and has the ability to direct workflow, standards, and quality control of the BIM model with the project team.  This individual controls the model for design purposes, graphic display, and for construction.  Also is the point person on the project for the company BIM support.  Can inform the BIM support of training needs for the team, project-specific issues, and strategize project direction.

The leader stage usually cannot be achieved after only one project, but is the culmination of skills obtained from at least three projects depending on size and complexity.  This individual would have mastered the previous stages and shown initiative to be a teacher and leader of others.  Patience is a virtue for this individual; he or she will need to understand the different skills of team members and how this affects the project as a whole.  This individual should also have a strong relationship with the project manager to help the manager understand the progress of the project, because it is much different than managing a CAD project.  The individual should also have a close relationship with the trainer or software manager so that they are supported effectively and training requirements for their team can be relayed.

“Almost nothing worthwhile is easy, and it’s hard to just jump in and be good at something difficult right off the bat…

The only reliable way to succeed at anything is to actually do it, repeatedly, with concentrated effort. True for individuals, and true for organizations. Athletes, artists, businesses…”

- John Gruber - http://daringfireball.net

There are a few mantras I have adopted as I explored various methods of training the first three stages of a Revit user.  According to Cyril Verley (http://www.cdvsystems.com), the most prominent among the training methods are:

  • Just in time training 
  • Short sessions with immediate reinforcement
  • Build it like you would in the field
  • Train the project

While these need to be stressed for the first three stages, they apply to all stages of the development of a Revit user.

Just In Time Training

Just in time training is exactly what it sounds like.  Training occurs moments before it will be utilized.  If the individual being trained does not start utilizing the skills taught, then they are quickly forgotten.  Training without utilization produces unnecessary retraining, and wasted time and resources.

Short Sessions with Immediate Reinforcement

Time is a difficult thing to obtain from individuals even if training is something they desire.  Therefore, the typical three- to four-day intensive introduction training that was the standard when the majority started utilizing Revit is, in my opinion, not effective.  This would significantly cut into the ongoing work of each individual.  Some would skip portions of the training for meetings, deadlines or the need to take calls.  In the end, without the immediate reinforcement of the first day’s training, the basic starting points were lost. 

Therefore, I instituted four-hour training sessions where the individuals learn specific tools and then reinforce that learning by utilizing it immediately.  Useful questions result from working on their own and we answer those in the next session—either the next day or in a couple of days depending on the specific needs of the project.  These short sessions allow for more focus and less distractions from the typical work of the office.

Build It Like You Would In The Field

Utilizing Revit in the way that the building would be constructed is beneficial to both understanding how the building goes together, and also provides a better utilized Revit file. 

Efficiencies will be gained in the later phases of a project and this should be included in the training to deter workarounds.  The easy way out in earlier phases can cause ripple effects later.  Training how to create a proper model is priceless.

Train The Project

Training the Project is a cost-effective solution, provides for more real-world training, and creates questions based off of real needs.  If a cookie-cutter project is used for training, then the trainer knows what will work and what won’t. Every tool will work as expected in a cookie-cutter project, but a real-world project will answer the needs that the individuals desire.  This creates a more beneficial training session, but also requires a more advanced and flexible trainer.  The financial benefit is that if the project is being developed during the training, that portion of the training can be billable, thus reducing the lost income from unbillable time.

Conclusion

Just as each firm is unique, each set of training objectives needs to be unique.  Whether you are just starting or even if you have been utilizing training for years, don’t be afraid to examine what works, what doesn’t, and be open to exploring new possibilities.  New possibilities could consist of rotating through trainers from different companies, exploring internal options, virtual, or a mixture of all.  One solution does not fit the needs of every individual or firm.

Jason Grant is the BIM specialist at Payette in Boston, Massachusetts. His experience includes over 14 years in the architecture field and he has utilized Autodesk Revit for the past six years. He completed 62 projects in Revit while at Colin Smith Architecture and has been managing Revit implementation, training, standards, API, and content development at Payette for the past three years. With his Revit experience including health care, labs, commercial, mixed-use and residential, he understands the challenges that both small and large projects and firms face while utilizing and implementing Revit. Jason is also co-founder and advisor to the Boston Revit Users Group with more than 450 members, co-founder and co-leader of the BLUR Group (BIM Leaders Utilizing Revit), author for AUGI, and an avid blogger on BIM and architecture at http://jasongrant.squarespace.com

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